Tasmania is one of Australia's most magical destinations. For visitors to this island state, there are so many new things to be discovered and marvelled over.

If you haven't yet visited Tasmania and need a little bit more inspiration before you book your tickets, here are some fascinating and fun facts about this piece of paradise.

An island of firsts

Many of Australia's significant 'firsts' happened in Tasmania. In 1874, the nation's first telephone call was made between Launceston and Campbell Town. Many years later, in 1955, Australia's first parking meters were installed in Hobart – although locals may debate the positivity of this achievement!

Tasmania's progressive side shone forth early in 1868, when it introduced a compulsory state education system. In 2003, the state granted same-sex couples many new legal rights.

Then there's the story of Australia's oldest and first synagogue that operates in Hobart, built in 1845.

One of Tasmania's towns, Coles Bay, was even the first in Australia to ban plastic shopping bags in 2003.

Not to mention, Hobart is home to Australia's oldest brewery, while Bothwell is home to Australia's oldest golf course.

These are just some of the many significant 'firsts' that Tasmania has achieved for the nation.

Clean, green and pristine

Tasmania has over 2,000 km of walking tracks, winding through 18 beautiful national parks and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area itself covers 1.38 million hectares.

Much of the island is vast, empty wilderness. So much so that Tasmania receives more visitors per year than its whole population, which tallies in at over 500,000.

If you're looking for a place to breathe easy, then Tasmania is the place to go. Some of the world's cleanest air was measured at Cape Grim on the north-west coast, so if you can ignore the spooky name you might want to head there to fill your lungs. 

Visitors are also stunned by the sheer diversity of Tasmania's scenery and plant and animal life. One of the island's huon pines – a native tree – on Mt Read is estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. After all, Tasmania did break off from the ancient super-continent Gondwana about 50 million years ago – so parts of it are bound to be old!

Of course, Tasmania is famous for Tasmanian devils, immortalised in the Looney Tunes series. These creatures can be seen at conservation parks or in the wild across the island.

Even the world's smallest marsupial, known as the pygmy possum, is native to Tasmania.

Culture, history and intrigue

Tasmania's history is juicier and more intriguing than you could have imagined.

The island was occupied long ago – twelve thousand years ago, in fact,  by Aboriginal people who were cut off from the rest of Australia by rising seas. They were hunters and gatherers, making tools from all the natural resources they could find and living off seasonal food, the fruits of the ocean, and travelling by canoe to nearby islands.

You can still view relics of these civilisations today. Ancient rock paintings can be seen at and around the Tiagarra Aboriginal Culture Centre and Museum, for example.

When the British settled in Tasmania in 1803, Tasmania's history became more scandalous with convict prisons and settlements, many of which you can still view the remnants of today. Stories of hardship, hangmen and hauntings are rife at these historical sights. Ironically, these days Tasmania has the lowest crime rate of any Australian state!

Have these lesser-known facts got you fired up to visit the fascinating state of Tasmania yet?

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If you're looking for somewhere beautiful to ring in Christmas or the New Year, Tasmania might be the perfect destination.

With an abundance of natural beauty, friendly locals, things to see and do, and places to relax, those who are holiday-bound this Christmas season will enjoy all this island state has to offer.

Here are some places you might want to visit on your silly season excursion – and a few things you might want to do.

Freycinet National Park

To the east of Tasmania you will find Freycinet National Park. This gorgeous and untouched part of the island is a perfect fit if you'd like to spend the holiday season in relative solitude, surrounded by serenity.

The park contrasts granite mountain landscapes with pristine beaches so whether you feel like a walk in the woods or a stroll on the beach, it is up to you!

If you want to treat yourself, there's nothing like a stay at the Saffire Freycinet luxury lodge. This is in a very remote and private part of the park, so you can simply relax and be yourself.

The lodge's dining and spa facilities are second-to-none so everything you need is at your fingertips.

You're also perfectly placed to enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities. Try hiking or heading out on a cruise over sparkling blue waters, or perhaps try your hand at kayaking or mountain biking.

A stroll along the perfectly crescent shaped Wineglass Bay is a necessity and hours can be spent spotting wildlife, playing in the shallows or relaxing in the sunshine.

The sights of the city

Spend some time in Tasmania's capital, Hobart, over the Christmas season. See which stores get all jazzed up with Christmas lights and twinkling tinsel and head to the weekly Salamanca Markets for your choice of yuletide crafts and gifts. Once you see the decorations and hear the sounds of Christmas music, you're sure to get into the end-of-year spirit.

At this time of year, the city really comes to life so the streets will always be bustling and vibrant.

From December 4, Elizabeth Mall and Wellington Court in particular will be spreading the season's merriment. There will be Christmas yoga sessions, bauble making workshops, photography, face painting, carolling, dancing and playing – and even the opportunity to write a letter to Santa! You'll never run out of things for the kids to do here.

Hobart is also the perfect place if you want to have activities like fine dining and shopping at your fingertips during your holiday. While some might like to get away into absolute wilderness, others who cherish their creature comforts will find Hobart satisfies all their needs and desires.

There are plenty of exquisite dining locations, as well as more affordable – yet equally tasty – options.

Make sure you wander the sandy streets, architecturally inspired by the nation of Georgia, and grab a leisurely coffee and pastry at any opportunity! With some of Australia's top baristas and tasteful talent, good food and drink is easy to find.

Then there's the shopping. Other than the Salamanca Markets you will find plenty of high-end boutiques as well as affordable chains. That means that even if you leave your Christmas shopping until you arrive on the island you'll be well looked after – although you might have to fight the crowds for a few things!

Whatever kind of Christmas break you're after, Tasmania can look after you. Check out these activities – and more – during your stay for an extremely memorable visit.

Image credit Brooke Saward – World of Wunderlust

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If you love a thrilling activity out on the water, then jet boating is likely to be an activity you want to try on your holiday to Tasmania.

Kayaking and cruising are great ways to explore the beautiful waterways, but if you're looking for an activity that gets your adrenalin pumping, then jet boating is for you!

It's a unique experience and one that you might even get addicted to! Hold on to your seat as your jet boat twists and turns around rivers and lakes, and make sure you're wearing a waterproof jacket because you're certainly not coming out of this experience dry.

Great jet boating tours are available at Hobart, the Derwent River, New Norfolk, Kettering, Huonville and the King River. Anyone can do them, the only criteria is that you love excitement, thrills and – considering the watery nature of the experience – spills!

It's great fun for everyone. Families will have a great time together, friends will have a scream and couples will benefit from bonding over the white-knuckle experience.

See Tasmania's waterways the heart-racing way – from aboard a jet boat.

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In the north of Tasmania there is a town that goes by the name of Penguin.

This is an extremely fun community to visit, as it embraces all things related to its name so it's impossible to turn down a corner street without seeing something Penguin related!

During the week, you can enjoy the laid-back pace of life in the sleepy town, while in the weekends the town becomes far more lively and bustling.

When it comes to dining and sitting back to enjoy life's pleasures, Penguin is a great place to visit. There are gorgeous seaside cafes right along a scenic esplanade so you can look out and appreciate the vast sea views of the Bass Strait. It's here you'll also see the 3.15 metre high fibreglass and cement penguin that stands watching over the town!

Make sure you conserve your energy for Sundays, when the Penguin market hits the town. Over 200 stalls are held undercover, so you don't have to worry about the threat of rain.

You can find delicious fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, gourmet cheese and boutique wines. There are also handicrafts and hand carved wooden items, not to mention the area is packed full of musicians providing live entertainment. It's a perfect opportunity to get the family together and have an adventure.

Of course, if you want to see actual penguins, make sure you are in town between September and March. This is when penguin tours can take you to Penguin Point where the creatures can be seen marching up the beach to nest – a truly adorable and memorable sight.

Other must-see sights include colourful gardens, breathtaking mountain walking tracks along the Dial Ranges and exploring the surrounding landscape.

Giant Penguin on the foreshore - Image credit:

Fairy-Little-Penguins-Bass-Strait - image credit: habitat advocate

Penguin Beach - image credit: mtapping on panoramio

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Seeing a new place by getting around on your own steam, such as by walking or cycling, is always a rewarding activity. Not only do you get to discover a new destination and experience it intimately, you also get a sense of achievement and personal development for the sweat you've put in to it.

Tasmania is known as a great destination for walking and hiking, but did you also know it's a cyclist's dream, too?

The island state is perfect for cycling, with diverse scenery offering new views around each bend. Tasmania is compact, so even one shorter cycle route will treat you to more than just one kind of landscape.

It's also a great way to travel at your own pace. While some hill sections might be challenging, they never go on too long and you'll be on the downhill slope at any minute! Tasmania's low volume of traffic also means that you'll never feel crowded out by cars.

Decide whether you'd like to tackle a challenging, high-speed mountain descent, or if you'd rather use cycling as your mechanism to see and experience delicious food and wine and heritage sites.  A cycle along the Heritage Highway could be a rewarding cultural experience.

On the other hand, you might want to take in breathtaking sea views along a coastal cycling excursion. Stop at your leisure at beautiful beaches and go on the hunt for the coastline's unique wildlife.

If you wish to descend into wilderness from a rural environment with one of our most notable waterfalls along the way, then a trip into the Derwent Valley and on to Lake Pedder will put you at the heart of our island.

Head out in a group of your own choosing or, if you like, join up with a cycling tour operator.

Don't worry about bringing your own bike to the island. Bike, helmet and accessory hire are available from many outlets across the island. Don't be afraid to ask the staff their favourite route or recommendation!

Nine Mile Beach Tasmania - one of the fabulous pieces of coastline on the East Coast

Riding down from Mt Wellington past the Cascade Brewery - Image Credit: Dave Cauldwell AAP

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Tasmania has so many national parks that it can be hard to remember which is which, or where certain features are located.

With that in mind, here are three great reasons why you should visit Mount William National Park in particular, located in Tassie's far-east.

Dramatic scenery

Mount William National Park is one of the most colourful parts of Tasmania. From golden-green grasslands, shimmering sand dunes, giant orange boulders and deep blue waters there is truly an abundance of sights and shades to capture your attention.

The Bay of Fires walk

This guided walk through the Bay of Fires is exception. One night is spent at the Forester Beach Camp with another two nights at the award winning Bay of Fires lodge.

Get up close and personal with nature and learn about the ecology of the region. As part of the experience involves camping, it allows you to see the region in a way many people never get the chance to.

This is truly one of Australia's 'hidden gems' – so get in while you can before everybody else discovers it too!

The wildlife

This park is also a fantastic location for wildlife spotting expeditions. Would you like to see adorable pademelons, bennetts wallabies and forester kangaroos up close? If so, head out of your encampment or lodge at dawn or sunset for your best chance at spotting the creatures.

During the day, you have a good chance of seeing echidnas, as these gentle creatures often wander through the shrubbery during sunlight hours. There is also an impressive array of bird life.

Tasmanian devils, on the other hand, are most often found at night scavenging for foods. It's an amazing experience to see one up close!

Setting for The Camp at Bay of Fires Walk

Walking the Bay of Fires Walk

Want a deck to relax on? We have a deck - Bay of Fires Lodge

Stumpys Bay Beach Tasmania in the Mt William National Park

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If you want to experience what Tasmania is all about, then the annual festival the 'Taste of Tasmania' is a great place to start. Called simply ‘The Taste’ or ‘Taste’ by locals, this is a firm favourite in the calendar as a wharf area adjacent to Salamanca comes alive for dining, entertainment and sampling Tasmania’s best wines, ciders, and beers from 11.00am till late.

Make your way to Hobart around the New Year, with festivities beginning on December 28 and finishing up on January 3. It's the perfect way to ring in 2014.

Celebrate local fresh produce, fine wines and boutique beer in the state's capital, with plenty of entertainment and activities on offer too.

The city truly comes alive with a plethora of art exhibitions and performance stages showcasing Tasmania's talent when it comes to the arts. Enjoy singers, musicians, comedians, and plenty of talented buskers out on the streets.

Princes Wharf is where the action is centred, so make it your base. Enjoy the boats in the harbour, gorgeous views out to see and leisurely stroll the sandstone streets, which will be alive with the festival atmosphere.

One of the highlights of the event is undoubtedly the food. Seafood is always in season on the island, so indulge in salmon, blue fin tuna, oysters and scallops.

Be sure to try Bruny Island cheese and Bicheno berries, pastries brimming with organic berries and vegetables, and stock up on some jams and relishes while you're at it.

You'll enjoy some great meals of lamb and veal, complemented by delicious wine, whisky and beer. Then, for dessert, savour the juicy fruits of local Tasmanian orchards.

For all the revellers out there, the New Year's Eve party is not to be missed. There will also be a spectacular array of fireworks, DJs and bands – so be there.

The setting for Taste - Image Credit: The Australian Traveller

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Tasmania is jam-packed with areas of  historical and cultural significance.

You can discover some this island's rich past by travelling the Heritage Highway.

It's a two day journey on average, but can take longer if you want to take more time to stop and smell the roses – or the lavender!

Begin your experience at Ben Lomond and the historic Evandale village in the north. Then, you will head through the pastoral centre of the island, winding your way to Hobart.

Not only will you get to know the convict and penal history of Tasmania and Australia, you'll learn a whole lot about the colonial community, too. Settlers farmed since the early 1800s and quaint townships such as Perth, Longford, Ross, Oatlands, Campbell Town and Kempton retain their old worldly charm with historic buildings and antique stores. There are also plenty of well-preserved old homes once in the possession of landed gentry for you to explore.

Try stopping by Evandale on a Sunday, as this is when the town comes alive with the arts and crafts market. When you're there be sure to make a stop at the fabulous Clarendon House for an insight into an old way of life.

Oatlands is fantastic for its Georgian architecture and local hospitality, while Cressy is a great spot for brown trout fishing, so spend a day out on the waters of the Macquarie River there.

Of course, once you get to Hobart there is still plenty of history for you to discover. Sandstone streets hark back to an earlier time, and nearby the expansive convict settlement of Port Arthur and all its secrets and mysteries await you. Hire a car and get going!

The beautiful convict built Ross Bridge

The township of Cressy, centre of trout fishing has these charming street signs

Pick up a game of 'Skullduggery' which allows you to explore in a game

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Most visitors to Tasmania want to visit the majestic Cradle Mountain, but let's face it, getting out and about in nature the whole time isn't for everyone.

That's where the Cradle Shuttle comes in. If you arrive in Tasmania feeling particularly fatigued, or simply want a more convenient way of getting around, this is a great way for you to still experience the wonder of Tasmania's most famous mountain.

Arrange your own transport to the visitor centre of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. If you're bringing your own car, aim to get there early as parking spaces can run out quickly.

From there, the shuttle bus can take you to Dove Lake with many stops in between. You can hop on and off wherever you like – but remember to check out the timetable beforehand. 

This handy service saves you the hassle of driving or hiking there yourself, so you can enjoy your time there as you please.

The shuttle bus is a daily service and charges may apply. From September to May, the shuttle bus runs every 20 minutes or every 15 minutes if it's particularly busy, and there's plenty of room for backpacks and trekking gear.

However, if you think you won't be gracing the park until winter, take note that between mid-May and September the buses run every 30 minutes, from 9am – 4pm.

Enjoy stops at the Cradle Valley Boardwalk, parts of the Overland Track, the Enchanted Walk and the Dove Lake Circuit, making it a great way to get straight to specific parts of the area that you want to see. 

Holidays are about doing what you enjoy, and the Cradle Shuttle is one thing that makes it that much easier.

Cradle Shuttle Bus - Image Credit: McDermott Coaches

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Though it may sound like a land of tasty breakfast foods, Oatlands is in fact a historic town located north of Hobart on the Midlands Highway. The road is also known as the Heritage Highway, because when you turn off the main bitumen, town after town reveals its identity from the past.

It's particularly well known for its eighteenth century sandstone buildings, all of which can be found on the main High Street. That means as you stroll down this street, it feels as though you've been transported back to the 19th century.

As you walk down High Street, make sure you look out for the descriptive plaques on many of the significant buildings, as these will give you a deeper insight into the past. At the northern end of the street you'll find some gorgeous old colonial cottages from the 1830s, as well as three restored churches that look beautiful floodlit at night. Did we hear photo op?

There are many other colonial-related activities in this timeless town, such as guided historic walks, antique shops, historic tea rooms and accommodation in colonial buildings.

Be sure to visit the old Court House, which was built by convicts. Learn about the history of the infamous local hangman and ex-convict himself, Solomon Blay, who carried out his grizzly tasks at the Oatlands jail and Hobart Penitentiary.

There's also remnants of the old jail building, watch house and officer's quarters, all from the 1820s-30s. If spooky history is your thing, then you can even take a ghost tour around the town.

On a visit to Oatlands, you must definitely see the beautiful and operational sandstone Callington Mill, which dates back to 1837 and is now Australia's third oldest windmill. This is a reminder of how wheat farmers in the town used to operate, and is the town's signature landmark.

You can also spend some of your time enjoying the local cafes or restaurants and simply wandering and exploring this fascinating township.

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